Living in the Private Sector

Looking back on my time in halls, I can say with confidence that it was an exhilarating, frustrating, joyful and tiring experience – all at the same time. I was seriously going to miss the curious sense of belonging felt by all of us who just so happened to use the same kitchen. Yes, we had grated against each other occasionally but then, human beings being the odd bundle of quirks and habits that we are, that was inevitable. But the end of year hurtled closer and with it came the question of where we were all going to live?

The first question, of course, was with whom? Most people I knew had, seemingly within minutes of arriving, settled the matter of their future flatmates – myself included. In the blink of an eye, however, most of these plans seemed to become unstuck as we became pressed to make definite decisions and I found myself in desperate need of flatmates before the end of term. Thankfully, a friend of mine from UCL stepped in – offering me a place in his prospective flat share with three others who I only knew in passing. With nothing else on the table I gladly accepted and we cast around for a reasonably priced rented flat with reasonable commuting distance to the centre. Unfortunately, so was everybody else and every property we examined was snapped up in a flash.

By the time we had a reasonable opening, I was out of the country. On a very choppy line up in the mountains of northern Greece, I was told that they had tracked down somewhere in Shepherd’s Bush for under 150 per week and needed my answer and holding deposit ASAP. Seeing very little option otherwise, I accepted – but wondered gloomily just what kind of place I was moving in to.

Three months later, on a beautiful September morning, I started to move my things in. On the outside, the aging ex-council property seemed to have confirmed my worries but when I stepped indoors, I was pleasantly surprised. It seemed spacious, clean and well-kempt and after divvying up the rooms we set about personalising them as far as possible.

Today the place hardly seems recognisable, and not just because it is a great deal messier. One of the unexpected joys of the flat has been in furnishing it with a strange assortment of objects – ranging from a projector of dubious origin and a set of fairy lights that inexplicably decorate our living room wall. Puzzlingly, for a flat full of guys, the issue we have argued about most has often been cleaning. Although we conform to the stereotype of having a generally untidy flat, this has not been for lack of trying – endless rotas and passive aggressive notes testify to our endless battle to keep a clean house.

Unlike in halls, there is no escaping responsibility. If the fridge has been raided then the culprit is never far away. As a result, there is an open desire for fairness and compromise with no-one wanting to rock the boat. Utilities are a fair example – we all find it equally annoying to wake up and discover there is no money on the gas meter and plod down the road in our slippers to top it up at the corner shop. The solution – the ultimate arbiter of rock, paper, scissors. Which is fair … I think?

Perhaps the part I love the most the flat share, though, is the knowledge that whatever the time of day or night there is always someone around to have a beer or watch a film with. At the same time, I know that I can just as easily work in monastic solitude without fear of being disturbed. The two seem to balance each other out and the high likelihood for spontaneous flat activity means that I never have to worry much about being bored.

Moving into private housing feels like the natural evolution from being in halls. Ultimately it helps students to learn the universally valuable lesson of how to live with other people and in a much more intense way than in halls.

Reflections on Dwellings

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(Coastal view from St Andrews and surrounding areas)

Aloha dear reader! Apologies for my protracted absence – March flew by in an essay panic, to which I awarded myself with a two week vacation. It was the first time I didn’t spend all the one month break in Turkey which, I can conclude, was a superb call. I’d like to dedicate this post to the hefty topic that is accommodation – not so much address and assess the options but rather discuss some widespread myths and rumours that spread like wildfire among first years. All practical information I will include in the links to at the end and, as always, feel free to use the comments section to ask me any questions!

I lived in Wolfson House in my first year. I had applied a few weeks past the deadline and in a parental induced frenzy, I found a room in a flat share on Gumtree whilst anxiously awaiting my homelessness. Ultimately, the room proved to be an unnecessary measure (as a first year international I was a priority). At the time, Wolfson House had not been refurbished – the rooms yet had a roadside motel feel with their stained blue walls and worn out burgundy carpeting. Yet, the apartment’s prime location just a few hundred meters from London Bridge and its relatively affordable cost more than made up for its lack of appeal. Now however, Wolfson House is the whole package – that dusty feel has been replaced by modern furniture and fresh painting.

People tend to ponder on this mystical sociability of particular halls, as if it’s the corridors that make obligatory small chat each morning or the shared bathroom contemplates which over-publicised student night to pass out in on Tuesday. Well, I get it: the layout of the apartments or the level of sophistication of the common rooms undoubtedly have an effect on the minute per encounter ratio. Upon first glance, the more people you bump into on a regular basis, the higher the chances of making friends with them. I agree with this position (I met the most memorable person of my first year in the lift) but what I don’t comprehend is that how this sociability factor can be the sole or the major determining factor of your first year social experience. What I’m trying to get at is that where you live it doesn’t matter as much as you probably think it does. That being said, meeting like-minded people ain’t always easy.

Take me, for example, I made a near minimal effort for the overwhelming majority of the year in getting to know my flatmates. While most made friends in our halls within weeks, for whatever reason, I chose to stand on the sideline and it wasn’t until May that I had made a couple solid friends that I actually wanted to spend time with. University can be a bit of a pressure to socially thrive and for many (yes, many) the pace at which things seem to move is just too fast. Therefore, while I’d strongly encourage one to make the effort in meeting people, I’m not an advocate of doing things out of one’s element. Pushing your comfort zone is great but there’s no need for conquering foreign territories.

A sixth form student approached me yesterday, asking for my honest opinion on how sociable King’s is, which is what prompted me to take the issue of accommodation from the angle I have. General information on accommodation can be found here and click here for detailed information on King’s halls!

 

 

 

Welcome Back!

I’d like to welcome myself to the first post of my second term, and you people, at whichever stage you are in your pre-university career.

Quick recap of my Christmas holiday: I did nothing that relates to my degree, future career or university in general. Instead, I took this much needed time to watch TV i.e. decay, knit and write light-hearted poetry. As all good things do, my utter revelment in the idle life began to cease after two weeks, at which point I started counting down the days until I came back to my malfunctioning home in London.

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(I have been so kind to embellish my post with pictures from Istanbul, for your enjoyment).

Fortunately, I didn’t have any essays (but one) due or exams coming up after the break, so it’s been business as usual since term started. We seem to be coming to the end of the seemingly infinite time line of the Cold War, having just covered the Sino-Vietnamese War and are moving steadily towards the 21st century where we’ll learn about the Arab Spring and the Iraq War. Strategy too has steered towards the current country – having put aside the Kosovo intervention, we have taken up Al-Qaeda, which, if I’m honest, doesn’t make for the most lively and intellectual discussion. Thankfully the recent comments from the London mayor Borris Johnson that jihadis are the way they are because they just can’t get the girls came just in time to lighten up the mood in the seminar – good ol’ Boris…

In other news, I will be the representative of Turkey as Prime Minister in the KCL Crisis Simulation 2015! The simulation is an exciting new initiative in collaboration with Princeton University and Science Po Paris. It aims to engage students in a simulated conflict where they can apply their knowledge of International Relations to develop policy under pressure and time constraint, i.e. making sure we are not hunched behind our desks for life. Mind you, my choice to act as Prime Minister of Turkey was anything but arbitrary. In the highly gendered and discriminatory politics of Turkey, where women (along with a multitude of minority groups) have been harassed and interfered with by the current government, led by the then Prime Minister Erdogan, I felt this is the least I can do towards self-empowerment, however naïve and petty it may be.

To end on a brighter note, our ten-week Surrey Square literacy project is coming to an end this Thursday. It is textbook bitter sweet as it will be heart breaking to say so long to the students while at the same time heartening to see them graduate from the programme. Last week, they sat with a sergeant from Southwark Council to negotiate for more patrols and street lights in their neighbourhood to improve safety. Now we’ll just have to wait and see if the council will listen to the pleas of these young, mindful citizens.

P.S: If you liked what you just read, make sure you volunteer with KCL Citizens to influence more change! (If not, Citizens UK will do just fine)

 

The last stretch

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I can finally see what my table looks like. It had been a long time since I took a look at its scratchy, stained surface. Papers, mugs, books and the rest of what constituted my life in the past fifteen plus days had cluttered it, to the point where I had to excuse myself to make space for more clutter. Enough with the depressing picture, you get it. This is what the final weeks of the term looks like and why I don’t have any Christmas pictures for you.

I do have to say though, that this essay writing period gets better each term. If I may do a little sports (or army?) analogy, it requires not only discipline and motivation, but training. Conditioning is key, as with each period, you will let out less sweat, frustration and tears (the last one hopefully never). I’ve also come to realize the sheer amount of knowledge I have stored in my brain in the past year. It gives me utter joy and satisfaction to have a thorough map of the Cold War – dates, people, places, you name it. I can also weave the information I got from different modules so I have a bigger, better picture of things – talk about contextualization.

This also happens to be the time of the year where institutions and organizations ‘wrap up’ their yearly activities. Here is a picture of the volunteer researchers at the Disability Rights UK, discussing the progress we’ve made so far with our findings. I had been looking for a research position for quite some time and luckily, I’ve found a something that I can also incorporate my passion for charity. The project I’m working on is on the Human Rights Act in the UK that has taken centre stage with the Tories’ proposal to scrap it. Before the year closes though, I’d like to speak a bit about the career aspect of the degree.

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Let’s start from the bottom: You need some kind of an experience before you apply for any job/volunteer position/internship. This is where the imagination can go wild –without setting off for that magic short cut to your dream job, try and gather experience and further your skills by volunteering or doing an internship. Fiona from Careers services has a regularly updated blog that features internship and job opportunities. Also, keep an eye on your emails as you’ll be getting plenty of notifications for positions in fields related to War Studies.

I volunteer for Citizens UK, where I go to a primary school with a group of King’s students to work on an after school project with the students there (I was notified by King’s regarding this opportunity!). They are lovely kids but not always receptive, so I have reached a different level with my communication skills. There are plenty of ways to get involved in King’s as well. Widening Participation is a fantastic department that has plenty of available paid positions. Doing campus tours, mentoring sixth form students and participating in open days are all jobs offered by the department and a great way to gain working experience within the university.

Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!

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A little extracurricular

I am quite excited to be writing this week’s post because it’s all about the fun and there’s a lot to cover, so let’s break it down.

Societies: First year (or every year, if you wish) opens with Freshers’ Fair which fills up the Barbican Centre for two full days. Here, you get a chance to meet all teams and societies. ‘Society’ has a sorority/fraternity kind of ring to some internationals, but I can assure you they are the opposite of exclusive. You can sign up for everything (it’s encouraged) and although some societies (sports and others that work with equipment) require a membership fee, the first couple weeks are usually free for trial. War Studies has its own society, so I advise you to become a part of it. If you want to improve your CV or are simply interested, Debate and MUN might be for you. You can also engage with societies on a purely fun level like I do, but all in all, societies may be the best way to get involved and interact with those you have a common interest with.

Events: No matter what you’re studying, you can always get more out of King’s besides your lectures. I was almost disoriented in my first year when I came across the discussions and talks happening at King’s on a variety of subjects from arts and religion to politics and security, and many more that I don’t even know yet. These events mostly take place after university hours and attendance for some is so great that you may need to book a place or make sure you’re there a bit early to grab a seat. They’re also a great way to network, especially in your second and third years. There’s almost always a chance to chat with the speakers (sometimes over wine) to introduce yourself and get their contact details. Making these connections may come incredibly handy when you’re applying for internships and jobs.

London: This city is a real gem no matter what your interests are. Most people complain that it’s a wallet-draining city but I disagree: a bit of exploring and avoiding the rookie traps, and you can easily live on a budget and still make the best of London. Culture-wise, London is the most student-friendly city I’ve seen. Most museums are free (as well as galleries) and you can get cheap theatre tickets off West End and movie tickets outside the centre (Monday and Tuesday are your friends). You will learn the most by walking so try and avoid buying a monthly Oyster plan for a little while and explore the streets around your accommodation and campus. If it’s your first time in London, join a free walking tour that will take you to London’s landmark spots (a friend of mine had a Shakespeare actor as his guide).

 

Second Year Modules

Hey everyone! Last week, I talked a bit about my first year module experiences and set myself on talking about London this week. However, on a second thought, following up from last week and talking about second year modules will be better.

Second year modules are a lot more specific, which is exciting and a bit daunting at the same time. In my opinion, specificity does not trump variety, so there is no problem in picking a range of modules from naval history to an International Relations module, which will let you explore your interests. I’ve opted for variety, which I believe will serve me well when choosing my third year modules and thinking about dissertation.

War & Global Conflict is chiefly a contemporary history module of conflicts around the world from approximately the second half of 20th century. As the time period suggests, these conflicts are studied partly in relation to the greater context of the Cold War. The content is especially captivating as the impacts of many of these events have lingered on until the present day.
Intelligence is an interesting one which you are not likely to find in any other institution as an entire module. A wide range of information is covered from the organizational structure of American intelligence to the why and how’s of major intelligence failures. This module is especially compelling to me given its relevance to present day conflicts.

International Law, Human Rights and Intervention is a new module available to both War Studies and International Relations students. This one hit the jack pot for me as it provides the civilian aspect of War Studies I’d been looking for. The focus shifts from the state to non-state analysis as we cover the influence of the United Nations and international law on conflict.

Strategy is my absolute favourite this year. I had heard amazing things about it, and it hasn’t let me down in the slightest. This module is about the pursuit of politics through military means – for example how the United States developed a nuclear strategy to deal with the Soviet Union or how guerrilla warfare was conducted in Latin America and China to topple capitalist regimes.

That was a brief overview of the modules I’m taking this year – hope it gives you an idea of the scope of options you have for second year. What I’ve found particularly useful when thinking about modules is talking with a couple students from the year above and asking for their opinions about their modules – things may not be the same as they appear on paper and it’s generally good to have some insight from those who’ve had first-hand experience. If you do go with your instincts though, there’s always the chance to change modules in the first few weeks of the term.

Hope you’ve found this information useful and you can expect to read on societies, happenings at King’s and London next week!

An insight to War Studies at King’s

It’s my second of year of War Studies at King’s, and I have to say, it’s all busier than ever – in a really good way. It’s as if, suddenly, London has more to offer, King’s has more societies and events. First year had gone in a split second, now it seems second year will be even more ruthless in how fast it goes.

Let me first talk about my experiences in first year: frankly speaking, War Studies is a demanding course. Readings flow like a river each week and I re-question the capacity of my brain to absorb the amount of information needs to each week. Under all the books and online articles though, appears this untapped potential, having waited all this time to emerge. That’s what university is about to me, not merely the lectures and the essays but the opportunity to tap into this potential, challenge yourself and explore all your interests. It may be exhausting at times, but at the end of the day, it is truly a rewarding experience.

All first year War Studies modules are compulsory (joint honours students have more flexibility though). While that might sound annoying at first, it all builds up so that you have the foundations for second year. Moreover, you would be surprised to see what might actually interest you! I was initially not the slightest bit interested in this module called the Experience of War. For me, I was more interested in the historical aspect of war, and this whole experience thing sounded too far from the big picture, the context, the heavy stuff. It was probably the second class that burst my preconceptions bubble. The lecturer, Dr Stephen Weiss, is a Second World War veteran and a man of great intellect and productivity. On top of military experience, he has additional experience in psychotherapy and Hollywood film-making. This roundedness showed, and made his lectures all the more interesting and compelling.This micro aspect of war, has contributed to the big picture I was so after. In fact, this course completed the missing puzzle pieces of the big pictures, as one might lose sight of the soldier, the one who’s doing the actual fighting, in the midst of all the politics and history.

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For my second year, I had the choice to pick all my modules and my first experience told me to go for variety and explore a bit more. So I’m taking Intelligence, alongside International Law, Human Rights and Intervention. If you really want to explore more, you should take a look at the external modules you can take within any university from the University of London group, which includes some of the best universities in the country. This is one of the benefits of being in London, taking advantage of the synergy between different institutions ande xpanding your horizons. Luckily King’s College allows students to do that depending on on your course.